May 15, 2018
By Doug Heath, PMI Social Media Coordinator
“... has left a review on your business page.”
When you get the notification, your heart begins to race. It’s possible that you’re about to read a glowing recap of the excellent service you’ve given, but the message could also be a cold-hearted blow to the reputation you’ve been trying to build.
As a professional social media coordinator for property managers, I have seen and responded to countless reviews, both positive and negative. I also consult with property managers on review response strategy and have had many unpleasant experiences trying to unwind the damage caused by an emotionally driven response to a poor review. Each review situation has its own unique set of circumstances, but I have found that certain methods are more likely to resolve the situation in a positive way.
Online reviews have completely changed the way people search for products and services, and nearly every property manager has been the recipient of bad reviews, regardless of the quality of service they provide their clients. As a property manager, you have two very different groups to please, property owners and tenants. Unfortunately, sometimes making one client happy conflicts with the desires of a property owner. The majority of bad reviews I’ve seen have been from unhappy tenants while the property manager was providing great customer service to their property owner client.
While you can’t censor the reviews you receive, you can respond to them. I’ve seen review scores improved or removed by customers when a company responds with a caring and helpful message. While not every reviewer will be kind enough to adjust their score, a strong review response will encourage future customers to place their confidence in you.
What to do? What to do?
There are a few things you should do once you’ve finished reading your new review.
If the review is good:
Breathe a sigh of relief. A four or five-star review from a happy customer will improve your online reputation instantly, and the people who read it will know you’ve provided quality service. Respond with a brief, clear thank you and confidently continue doing awesome work for your owners and tenants.
If the review is bad:
Wait. Read the review in it in its entirety. Then don’t do anything until you’ve calmed down. Whether you’ve received a three-word bash or a ten-paragraph tragedy, the way you respond will say more about you than that review ever will. The most important thing to do is to respond Professionally, not Emotionally. Do not respond, do not even thinking about responding, until you have a cool head. I tell the property managers I work with that the best way to remove the emotional element of a response is to give the review a little space. For some managers, this may take a few hours, for others it may be a full day’s delay depending on the review.
Once you have cooled off enough to view the situation more objectively, you can begin planning your response. The most successful responses to negative reviews focus on resolving the problem the reviewer had and not solving the bad review. Most people want to know that they have been heard and that you care about their situation.
Keep this advice in mind now that you’re calm and ready to respond:
- Be kind: As much fun as it would be to call your critics out or catch them in their own words, this won’t do your reputation any favors. Kindness usually begins with being able to see someone else’s perspective even if you don’t agree with them. Though it may seem too soft in the moment, a kind answer can cool anger and diffuse conflict with the reviewer. Returning criticism with genuine concern also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate character strength and shows potential customers that you can handle a problem gracefully.
- Only promise to resolve what you are willing and able to: Making restitution is important in any kind of conflict resolution, a promise to send that forgotten security deposit goes a long way. When the deposit arrives in the next week, the reviewer will likely be happy again. However, don’t make any promises you can’t or shouldn’t keep just to appear as if you resolved the issue.
- Admit when you’re wrong: Nobody is perfect. Is any part of the accusation true? If so, then it’s best to own up to it. If you forgot to send a reviewer their security deposit, apologize and promise to send it immediately. Making mistakes is normal and most people know that. Some will always be unforgiving, but reasonable people will understand. Trying to hide a mistake generally leads to angry responses from the reviewer and makes you appear less trustworthy to whoever reads the exchange.
- Stand by your principles or, in this example, company policy: No, someone can’t bring their pet alligator to live in the rental with them just because they complained online. If your lease specifically says only dogs and cats allowed, stick with it. You gain nothing from conceding in this one, very public case. Owners lose faith in you, potential tenants feel they can walk all over you, and suddenly your headaches increase.
- Take the conversation off the review platform: Rather than allow upset customers to berate you continually in a public forum, ask them to send you a private message, email, or phone call. Better yet, promise that you’ll call them and then do so immediately. Taking the conversation off the platform shows your interest in knowing the full story. Dissatisfied customers with sincere concerns who reach out to you and offer the opportunity to rectify the situation will be willing to let you help resolve their issues. Reviewers who are not sincere will likely let the issue die once they don’t have an audience.